With more than 75 calls coming in per minute, there is never a dull moment as a 911 dispatcher with the Columbus Division of Police.
“We're teachers. We're counselors. We're psychologists. We're doctors. We're everything to some of these people,” said 911dispatcher Victoria McKelvey. “We get them through crises. We talk to them when they don't make sense. We talk to them when they do make sense. We get them the help they need.”
Before officers ever arrive on a scene, people like 13-year-veteran McKelvey answer the call. The job requires dispatchers to be alert and ready for action.
It's a job that requires dispatchers to be alert and ready to take any call.
McKelvey recalled a 911 call from a teen.
“It was the 14 year old, and his first words to me were, ‘I just shot my next door neighbor and I think he's dead. He's laying in my front yard,’” she said.
In only a matter of minutes, McKelvey said she heard the teenagers’ voice turn from panic to calm.
“My job that day, and my job on that call, was to make sure that child got out of that house safely without getting injured by anybody,” she said.
With 26 years on the job, dispatcher Yvonne Gardner said one call shocked her to the core.
“It was a male caller that wanted to advise me of a body that was on the side of a house in a grassy field, and he said the person had shot himself,” Gardner said.
Gardner asked him how he knows this information, and right before hanging up the phone he said “It’s me.”
Dispatchers are trained for those types of situations, but even as a seasoned professional, some calls are difficult to deal with when they come in.
“I felt as though he drew me into his situation, and I turned my phone off and I stood in that hallway and I cried,” Gardner said.
Dispatchers have heard it all, faced with hang-ups, prank calls and people asking for directions or needing a phone number.
When true emergency strikes, though, dispatchers need two important pieces of information.
Since cell phones don’t always give an exact location, it’s important for dispatchers to know the reason for the call, what’s happening and a descriptive location.
“If we don't know where you're at, we can't get you help,” McKelvey said.
Dispatchers work long hours, deal with all kinds of people in all kinds of situations from all parts of the city. Dispatchers might never see who they’re helping, but they make a difference with each call answered.
“It's the hardest job I've ever had in my life. It's the best job I've ever had in my life,” McKelvey said.
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